As the world has become more interconnected, the increase of long distance relationships have expanded beyond domestic borders. In time, more couples have successfully formed romantic unions with people living abroad. However, many are split between their cultural differences, with their distance becoming a near secondary obstacle.
“I think it can be long term if people put in the effort to do it,” said Alicia Morris, who currently teaches English to middle and high school-aged students in Spain. While dating people from foreign countries, it’s important to be open about certain native customs, she says. With complete transparency, not only would a successful cross-cultural relationship form, it’s likely to last.
“Just complete honesty about how you feel, it can turn into something serious,” said Morris. “I definitely think it’s possible, but it takes so much time to find what you’re comfortable with.”
Yes, certain cultural barriers can be broken, Morris says. But what if certain practices are inappropriate to someone’s partner? Something as small as a language barrier could be a potential issue. So, when facing more serious concerns — like communication, family or religion — couples struggle to hash out their cultural variations.
Morris, who recently dated a native Spaniard for several months, believes a relationship is only worth doing if two people are fully invested — long distance or not. When she first arrived in the city of Albacete nearly a year ago, she dated one or two guys before meeting someone who shared her desire to travel and move to the United States.
Though, over time, Morris says the two had problems with communication, which she felt was partially based on their differences in cultural upbringing. Throughout their time dating, they were typically split on things related to Spanish customs, mainly family, public affection and, sometimes, their slight language barrier.
“The family thing, it’s just different, something to get used to,” Morris said hesitantly. “One of the biggest [issues] is Spanish culture, which is much more intimate and personal. They’re not embarrassed about a lot things that we are. When someone’s so open, that’s normal to them. The Spanish cultural differences are just different.
“It can be stressful and confusing,” she added. “Communicating with someone about how you feel is difficult. Sometimes language can be an issue. Anything can happen with the tiniest miscommunication.”
But even with Morris’ relationship becoming more serious, other cultural issues surfaced, with them only heightening once she moved back to Ohio for the summer. At the time, their added struggles made her further question the relationship’s longevity, which seemingly resulted in its end.
“We didn’t Skype or FaceTime as much as I’d like to,” she said. “I don’t care if we only talk for 20 minutes, that’s better than waiting for an entire month. Both people have to really want it. If there’s an imbalance in effort, that’s where there’s really a problem. Both people have to genuinely make the effort.”
Before then, Morris says, she was immersed in the “fantasy” that came with dating people from foreign countries. Before she moved to Albacete in September 2018, she envisioned herself meeting a “cute Spanish boy who could sing,” which is exactly what she did. Unfortunately, her fantasy would be short-lived.
Dating someone from another country is certainly realistic, Morris says, but often people’s ideas of a cross-cultural romance is far from what most actually encounter.
“Look, you’re going to have this fantasy and dream in your head,” Morris said. “Check in with yourself about your fantasy. The fantasy’s going to seem great but remember it’s not real. Protect yourself and don’t give all of yourself to someone. It does crash and burn because your visions were that much bigger.”
But even with her relationship faltering because of these reverie-like expectations and the cultural barriers she eventually confronted, Morris says, with openness and genuine interest at the center, things like marriage and the start of a family are worth pursuing, as long as the “fantasy” bears some semblance of reality.